Gov. Mitch Daniels and other elected officials are endorsing key recommendations from Indiana's first review of criminal sentencing policies in more than 30 years.
Daniels says the state has the opportunity to improve public safety by incarcerating Indiana's most violent criminals and by giving local judges more control to keep those who commit lesser offenses out of prison.
Earlier this year, Daniels, Chief Justice Randall Shepard, Attorney Greg Zoeller and legislative leaders sought the review in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.
The review indicated that Indiana's prison population grew by 41 percent between 2000 and 2008, or around 8,000 offenders, while crime rates fell. That's three times faster than neighboring states.
State Rep. Eric Turner (R-Marion) is hopeful the study will help lawmakers craft new legislation to address the skyrocketing numbers.
"Although the public wants us to be tough on crime, and we want to be, it's very costly to just build more prisons," Turner said.
Along with Daniels, he advocates several policy changes highlighted in the study:
• Improve proportionality in sentencing and ensure prison space for the worst offenders by creating a more precise set of drug and theft sentencing laws and providing judges with more sentencing options for individuals who commit the least serious felony offenses.
• Strengthen community supervision by focusing resources on high-risk offenders and creating incentives for supervision agencies to coordinate better with one another.
• Reduce recidivism and bolster public safety by increasing access to community-based substance abuse and mental health treatment and enabling probation officers to respond with more effective, swift and certain sanctions.
Without reform, the state's prison population is projected to grow from 29,000 today to nearly 35,000 in 2017.